Since their discovery Hox genes have been at the core of the established models explaining the development and evolution of the vertebrate body plan as well as its paired appendages. Recent work brought new light to their role in the patterning processes along the main body axis. These studies show that Hox genes do not control the basic layout of the vertebrate body plan but carry out region-specific patterning instructions loaded on the derivatives of axial progenitors by Hox-independent processes. Furthermore, the finding that Hox clusters are embedded in functional chromatin domains, which critically impacts their expression, has significantly altered our understanding of the mechanisms of Hox gene regulation. This new conceptual framework has broadened our understanding of both limb development and the evolution of vertebrate paired appendages.
Keywords: Gdf11; Hox genes; Oct4; axial development; fin-to-limb evolution; limb development.
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